The BJP’s Narendra Modi may have already taken an unassailable lead in the campaign stakes but the Congress is all set to pick up its pace.
With just 10-odd days to go before the crucial Lok Sabha elections kick off, party president Sonia Gandhi stepped out for the first time this poll season on Sunday, addressing back-to-back rallies in Assam and Delhi to shore up the flagging morale of party workers and leaders.
She is expected to address at least 50 such rallies over the next 40 days, party sources said. The late start isn’t unusual for Sonia, who usually hits the campaign trail once the names of candidates are announced. Barring a few seats, the party is mostly through with its lists.
Before her public meetings in Lakhimpur, Assam, and Karol Bagh, Delhi, the Congress chief’s first formal appearance in the run-up to polls was at the release of the party’s manifesto in the Capital on Wednesday.
At Sunday’s rallies, Sonia attacked Modi and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal. “The Congress has strengthened the Ganga-Jamuna (all encompassing) culture but the BJP believes in politics of hate and is out to weaken the country,” she said in Lakhimpur.
“Those who don’t believe in secular values cannot grasp the spirit of patriotism and will lead the country to destruction if they get power.”
Targeting Kejriwal, who resigned as Delhi CM after just 49 days in office, she said in the Capital, “Some people believed running a government was child’s play. You have seen how they have run away.”
Sonia’s next public meeting is in Panipat, Haryana, on Monday.
Campaigning for party candidates has largely fallen on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s shoulders and he plans to address more than 150 rallies this season. On his part, Modi is scheduled to address 185 public meetings and is already going through them at a furious pace.
Sonia’s Lakhimpur rally came a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed his first rally of the season in Assam, the state he represents in Rajya Sabha. This is Singh’s last election campaign as he has already declared he will not be seeking a third term, should the UPA come back to power. He, too, has received requests from several state units to campaign for party candidates.
The campaigning by its top leadership would galvanise Congress workers as the party goes into what pollsters are calling a “tough and difficult” electoral battle.